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Democracy Now! hijacked by Bessie Wash 3-26-01

postings from:

From Edwin Johnston, Houston TX

Feel free to forward. Pacifica Foundation Executive Director, Bessie Wash, interrupted the regularly scheduled broadcast of Democracy Now! this morning to personally attack and libel me in regards to an incident at KPFT in Houston on Friday night. This broadcast went out nationally to all the Pacifica stations; NYC, LA, Berkeley, Washington, DC and Houston as well as many other affiliated stations across the US and over the internet worldwide.

Ms. Wash, falsely claimed that I violently assaulted KPFT employee Molly O'Brien and praised a KPFT volunteer for stepping in to help her. The fact of the matter is that O'Brien assaulted one of the protestors with me at KPFT, then her husband, Garland Ganter, who is the manager at KPFT, assaulted me twice. Then I was assaulted by the same volunteer that Ms. Walsh had praised. I was later arrested and charged with two counts of assault based on false reports to police by Ganter and O'Brien.


Transcript: Bessie Wash Statement
- Interruption on 3/26/2000 Democracy Now! Broadcast

This is Bessie Wash, executive director of the Pacifica Foundation. It is necessary that I interrupt your regularly scheduled program to speak to those that are being misled by a small group of individuals.

This past weekend, a female employee of the Pacifica station KPFT in Houston, was physically attacked by a man participating in a anti-Pacifica demonstration. This female employee, and the KPFT General Manager were greeting guests as they arrived at the station property for an evening concert, when she was assaulted by a male demonstrator. The man jumped on her back, taunted her, attempted to throw her to the ground, and while this was happening, three other demonstrators just stood by and watched. They did not even attempt to help her, or to do anything to stop this man.

It was a KPFT volunteer who came to her rescue and I want to personally, personally thank this volunteer for his heroic deed.

Friday's attack comes just two weeks after, two weeks, after the general manager, also a female, at our New York station WBAI, who was physically attacked in her own studio. In her own studio. As she sat in front of a mike and attempted to interview a congressman. These last incidents occurred after a series of unreported acts of violence and threats. Racial and sex-baiting intimidation tactics employed by the anti-Pacifica facets (?) throughout this network in all five signal areas: KPFA in Berkeley, WBAI in New York, WPFW in Washington, KPFK in LA and KPFT in Houston.

The (unintelligible) of the anti-Pacifica group have harassed, and are being encourage to continue this campaign of physical and emotional violence on employees, national board members, volunteers as well as their family members. Relatives including young children. Wives, grandparents. Elderly and sickly parents have been subjected to ugly e-mail messages, death threats, late night phone calls, uninvited visits not only at their places of employment but at their homes.

As the originator of listener-supported radio and alternative programming, the Pacifica Foundation remains the only true voice of the voiceless. Pacifica supports free speech and the right to actively assemble. However, we do not, I repeat, do not, condone, nor will we tolerate violence.

If you are a participant in the anti-Pacifica group you have the right to be vigilant in your beliefs but it is not your right, in fact it is illegal, to subject violence on others. It is also immoral and irresponsible to use violence as a method of protest in your attempt to steal the five radio stations funded by individuals that are true believers and supporters of the Pacifica Foundation's mission.

As the executive director of the Pacifica Foundation I am committed to insuring that Pacifica remains an organization that embraces all views, races, sexes and creeds and that the individuals, Pacifica employees, Board members and volunteers dedicated to this belief are free to support Pacifica in the manner in which they choose, without threats to themselves, or their loved ones.

We have thus far tolerated the slander, lies, false accusations, attempts to disrupt daily operations and the strategic effort to create an atmosphere of crisis at Pacifica. But we will not accept violence. All those that are opposed to Pacifica have the right to protest, in a moral and non-violent manner. However, any and all participants that are engaged in violence and threats will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

I thank you for your time. We will now resume our regularly scheduled program.


Violence; Pacifica's Big Lie: an Open Letter to Bessie Wash
Date: Mon, 26 Mar 2001 17:57:47 EST
From: Renteria22@aol.com

Ms. Wash, The illegaly seated Pacifica National Board, in its efforts to fulfill its Strategic Five Year Plan to mainstream Pacifica's programming, has reached a new low in its "big lie" tactics aimed at painting the movement to free Pacifica as "violent."

Your interruption today of Democracy Now! to commit libel against a member of the Pacifica Listeners Union local in Houston is an outrage.reminiscent of the interrruption of a live interview with Congressman Major Owens by Utrice Leid, interm general manager of Pacifica's WBAI in New York City, in the interests of Pacifica's version of the "truth".

Concretely, what occured at KPFT was this. Members of the Pacifica Listeners Union and the Houston Committee for People's Radio were leafleting outside the station, passing flyers from the Pacifica Campaign to other listeners attending a promotional event in the back yard of the KPFT studios at 419 Lovett Blvd.

Molly O'Brian is a KPFT employee and wife of KPFT General Manager Garland Ganter, who oversaw the armed takeover of Pacifica station KPFA in Berkeley in 1999 and whose orders to arrest KPFA journalists and other staff and listeners there are a matter of public record.

In the Houston events, O'Bryan approached a leafletter, a woman of slight stature, assaulted her and snatched away the leaflets she was distributing. Pacifica Listeners Union member Edwin Johnston followed O'Bryan, justly demanding that the leaflets be returned.

O'Bryan then screamed, literally, "RAPE!" Suddenly, as if on cue, Ganter and another KPFT employee appeared, and, according to witnesses, assaulted Mr. Johnston.

For those of us who are familiar with the workings of the Houston Police Department, with its widespread reputation for racist repression and murder, and its history of repression of political dissent, it comes as no surprise that it was Mr. Johnston, and not Mr. Ganter or his wife who was arrested at the scene.

The actual events have all the earmarks of a staged provocation, designed by Pacifica to give it an opportunity to spread help create the image of a "violent" opposition.

Ms. O'Brian and Mr. Ganter should be aware that filing false charges is both a criminal and civil offense, and you should be aware of the penalties for libel. You may rest assured that we are aware of them.

The events at KPFT remind many of us of other opportunistic falsehoods spread by the Pacifica hierarchy regarding our movement.

Prior to one Pacifica National Board meeting in Houston, a fire was set to the garage apartment behind the studios of KPFT. Mr. Ganter created the impression in an interview with the Houston Chronicle that this was the work of free Pacifica activists.

Later, the truth came out. Ganter had confronted a homeless youth who'd been squatting in the garage apartment, and had driven him from the premises. This young man was later arrested and charged with arson.

Ganter could not but have been aware that the young man was a suspect in the case, but rather than expose his own antipathy for homeless youth and tell the truth about the fire's probable cause, Ganter, in line with Pacifica's public relations policy, endeavored to lay the blame at the doorstep of free Pacifica activists.

Pacifica has endeavored to use the police in other circumstances to attack and discredit the free Pacifica movement.

Former Pacifica National Board Chair Mary Frances Berry, who is also a Presidential appointee as Chair of the US Civil Rights Commission, in a self and system exposing maneuver, used her connections to the US Justice Department to apply pressure to the Berkeley Police Department to be more aggressive -- read that brutal -- with the thousands strong movement in the streets of Berkeley in protest of the Ganter-led takeover of KPFA.

Pacifica also turned the names of thousands of Pacifica listeners over to the police. Their "crime" ? Writing letters of protest to the Pacifica hierarchy. Pacifica asserted, however, that they were all suspects in an attempted _murder_. One night, before the movement to free Pacifica had taken off in Berkeley, someone had fired a shot through a window at the Pacifica offices at midnight, when, of course, no one was there.

This Pacifica construed as "attempted murder" in its public relations blitz, and used this thin pretense to violate the civil rights of thousand of its listeners.

As part of its ongoing campaign to distance others from the movement to liberate Pacifica from its grasp, the Pacifica hierarchy has repeatedly claimed that it has received threats of violence from its listeners. Not a single document or recording has been produced, however, to substantiate these charges.

The arrest of Edwin Johnston is a part of this larger pattern, and is an expression of Pacifica's growing desperation in the face of a movement that has every chance of defeating the current Pacifica regime in the streets, in the courts, and in the hearts and minds of progressive people everywhere.

Your interruption of a national broadcast to libel Mr. Johnston in a case that is, in any event, a petty, ticketable offense, would be laughable were it not part of a larger pattern of lies, secrets and the abuse of power in the name of crushing dissent.

Rafael Renteria
National Spokesperson
Pacifica Listeners Union


From: jmjones555@e...
Date: Mon Mar 26, 2001 2:22pm
Subject: We interrupt this broadcast....


Bessie Wash used her Pacifica "power" to interrupt this morning's "Democracy Now!" broadcast to spew a diatribe that contained accusations of physical attacks and phone threats from the "anti- Pacifica" groups on board members, Pacifica staff and volunteers. I was shocked to hear the airwaves used in this way to express this one-sided view. Wash proceeded to account some incident that happened this past weekend in CA. I don't remember exactly what happened (maybe others could give a more detailed account), but it involved a type of violence/attack against a woman working with Pacifica in some capacity.


Whoever heard this as well, please jump in.

Peaceness and continued agitation,


From: Carolyn Birden
Date: Mon Mar 26, 2001 2:44pm
Subject: Re: [NewPacifica] We interrupt this broadcast....

I heard this as well: quite a distortion of the eyewitness accounts I have seen elsewhere. At first some dead air, then papers rustling in the background, then a break-in by Bessie Wash. In a word, I believe she told some whoppers. Taking over Amy's time - knowing this is the only national show - isn't this a breech of not only Pacifica's contract with its affiliates but with its listeners? Again?

On another point, she sounded quite bizarre, especially if the original accounts of this incident are anywhere close to correct. She sounded defensive, which well she might be if the false charges lodged against the listener in this case result in legal censure of Pacifica personnel. Losing it on the air: not nice to hear.


From: john dodge
Date: Mon Mar 26, 2001 4:06pm
Subject: Re: [NewPacifica] We interrupt this broadcast....

Steve Rendall wrote:

> I heard the last part of Wash's statement. I have two
> questions. Wash broke in while Amy was reading the
> news items at the top of the show, what item was Amy
> reading at the time of the interruption?

ironically? she was just about to do a story on how the government was able to plant stories in the news at will.


Pagan Hippie Freak
Re: Question...
Mon Mar 26 11:27:46 2001

A couple minutes into the DN! broadcast, Amy's audio was dumped and replaced with a (taped?) statement by Bessie Whitewash condemning the "violence" of the anti-PNB movement, and stating that Utrice Leid was "attacked" during "her" interview with Major Owens, resulting in the congressman being cut off the air. Very Orwellian indeed...

Prior to the audio takeover, there were several short glitches in the audio feed, and the usual DN! theme music was missing.


Letter to Bessie Wash
Mon Mar 26 09:36:54 2001

Bessie Wash
Executive Director of Pacifica
2390 Champlain Street NW
Washington, DC 20009
888-770-4944 x348, 202-588-0999

Dear Ms. Bessie Wash,

I was listening WBAI this morning and I heard your announcement about incident happened at Houston over this weekend which cut off part of Democracy Now! without any warning. You committed a terrorist act. Also you forgot to talk about continuing emotional violence caused by Pacifica board and WBAI intern manager, firing and banning, censoring are causing great deal of pain in this community. I am totally for "non" violence civil disobedience. I am sure who ever did violence act in Houston will be handled by police. But also you have to know that it is popular tactics (actually used by police often ) to hire someone like that by opposition. Please, You must stop this kind of terrorist act to public.

Please resign now.

Tom Nagasaki
WBAI listener


loser liberal
my email to walsh
Mon Mar 26 09:30:51 2001

dear ms.walsh:

i am a relatively new regular listener to wbai in new york. i am the kind of listener you should want to attract. i know almost nothing about the "fired" at wbai, and consequently have little or no opinion about that.

but i was appalled by the lie i just heard from your lips regarding the incident at wbai a few weeks ago. you said utrice leid was attacked while trying to interview a congressman. i listened to the show that day, and your account is so false, so disingenous as to be mindboggling that you have achieved the station you have. as you well know (or should know if you had an ounce of journalistic integrity) the interview of congressman owens was being conducted by someone else, when utrice leid interrupted and cancelled the show immediately. congressman owens knows better and so does everyone who has listened to that horrific incident. i heard the show! your 1984-like attempt to rewrite history is appalling, your lack of respect for your own listeners despicable.

if this episode reflects your overall approach to pacifica, i can only conclude you are destroying a wonderful thing, like a captain of the titanic, roaming the north atlantic in search of icebergs.

you are not fit to hold the position you do now.

wbai listener

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